New York Society Library Talk on “The Quantum Moment: How Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty”.

Dear Commons Community,

Last night I attended a talk at the New York Society Library on a recently published book,  “The Quantum Moment: How Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty” given by the authors Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber. Crease is a professor of philosophy and Goldhaber, a professor of physics, at SUNY Stonybrook.

Crease’s presentation focused on how quantum theory has found its way into our culture and language even though most people do not understand what it is.  He used several examples such as the term “quantum leap”.   He explained that the term comes from the nature of electrons to change automatically where they are and to move from one place to another.

Goldhaber focused more on the physics of quantum theory discussing the differences of particles and waves, uncertainty of the subatomic positioning of electrons, and the difficulty of observing quantum mechanics at work because of the distortion caused by light.

For me a highlight was Goldhaber’s speculation as to whether Einstein ever really accepted quantum theory in lieu of classical (deterministic) theory.  Einstein was very unhappy about the apparent randomness in nature as posited by quantum theory. His views were summed up in his famous phrase, ‘God does not play dice’. He seemed to have felt that the uncertainty was only provisional: but that there was an underlying reality, in which particles would have well defined positions and speeds, and would evolve according to deterministic laws.  Goldhaber concluded that no one really knows whether Einstein ever accepted quantum theory.


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